This is a guest post from Brendan Cruickshank, whom I met through LinkedIn. I enjoyed some of his other posts. And now here’s one on networking…
It’s a small world. That’s what I find myself thinking almost every day. I constantly meet people who I am very glad to know even when I am just sitting on an airplane. I also make a habit to hand out business cards to most of the people I meet.
Am I job hunting? No, not at the moment. Some of the people I meet may be looking for work and maybe I can help them out. I believe in networking and I just so happen to be a very friendly person. I truly enjoy getting to know new people and staying in touch. In addition to being professionally beneficial, networking has many other perks as well.
1. Not having to feel like a stranger in a strange land
I travel a lot. I meet people from all around the world. What is incredible is that wherever I go, no matter what city or state I travel to, chances are that someone in my network lives there. I feel as though I have someone to turn to whether I need to know where to go to get a good meal or if I need someone to explain the city subway system to me.
In some cases, friends I originally met on an airplane have gotten together with me for a cup of coffee a year or two later when I wound up back in their city. Sometimes friends from my network have invited me over for dinner when I was in town.
It makes me feel as though I am not really a stranger in the city
While that may seem like a simple gesture, it makes me feel as though I am not really a stranger in the city. After all, I’m not sitting alone in a restaurant. I’m enjoying the company of friends and getting to know them better.
I thrilled when the reverse happens and a friend from my network turns up in my city. I enjoy the chance to see the place I call home, the way a stranger would see it. Visitors come with fresh eyes and notice things I walk by every day.
2. Being put in touch with resources that I didn’t know existed
I have had a long and varied work history. I have freelanced and worked as an independent contractor, had one or two part-time jobs, worked full-time, and I’ve found myself temporarily out of work.
My contacts have often let me know about job opportunities at other companies or even possible opportunities at companies not even launched yet!
Having a wide base of contacts in my industry has meant even when I am not actively looking for work, I find that if I have a problem people in my network are a wonderful source of information. They point me in the direction of resources I was previously unaware of. They let me know about new technology emerging in my field. They also tap their own data centers – their own memories based on their personal experiences with similar issues – and advise me based on their experience.
It’s almost like having a personal mentor, only I have a village full of personal mentors
It’s almost like having a personal mentor, only I have a village full of personal mentors. With several mentors in every time zone, there is usually someone out there who I can bounce an idea off, even when I am pulling an all-nighter to catch up on work. It may be midnight for me, but only eight p.m. for my Alaska or Hawaii friends, who are happy to talk to me.
My network of work-related contacts doesn’t only point me in the direction of work-related information, either. When one of my kids is sick, my network may have a doctor to refer. They email me their favorite jokes and they get to know my personal interests, as I do with them. Knowing I am a news hound, for example, friends will send me links to news magazines they think I may not know of, or to podcasts that they think will be a good fit with my interests. I’ve discovered some of my favorite publications and podcasts this way (plus, its a great relief during a strenuous work day).
3. Emotional support during stressful times
Some of my contacts have become really close friends – probably because we were looking for work, with our confidence hurting, at about the same time. We got into the habit of checking in with each other several times a week to see how things were going.
When things are going well, we cheer each other on. When things are going badly, we commiserate. That sounds like a simple thing my support network could easily handle. Though my personal network could handle it, it is not as validating to be cheered on by friends and family (who I happen to know think the world of me no matter what I do!) as it is to be cheered on by my professional peers, whose opinions (sorry, Mom!) I respect much more when it comes to work advice.
4. There is more than one way to do things
When I chat with people in my network, often I find that they approach the same challenges in a different way than I do. They structure their days differently, organize their work differently, and prioritize their work differently. Which way is better?
It doesn’t really matter. The fact is that when I talk to people about how they handle the same tasks, we both benefit. We learn things from each other. One of my work contacts turned me on to the GTD (Getting Things Done) productivity system, which I followed religiously for quite some time.
Networking is Fun
Still, the biggest benefit to networking, in my opinion, is that it’s fun. I like to talk to people, I like to make friends, and I like to keep in touch. After all, what’s the drawback? If worst comes to worst, I’ll end up spending a fortune on holiday greeting cards.
Vice President of Client Services, JuJu.com
FURTHER READING ON NETWORKING
- Don’t Listen to Your Mother. Talk to Strangers at Networking
- Building a Relationship? Give Options for BOTH Coffee and Lunch
- Why “What do you do?” is So Important
- Your Handshake Should Not be Noticeable. Ever.
- Business is Personal – 3 Tips to Accelerate Relationship Building with Small Talk
Photography Source: Photos.com